Letter: Lottery bidders must reassure doubters (CORRECTED)

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The Independent Online

Sir: Unlike you (leading article, 15 February), I do not find it at all odd that the Government should create a new monopoly in the National Lottery. After all, its track record demonstrates its commitment to private enterprise rather than free and open enterprise.

You are, however, correct to point out that the National Lottery is a licence to print money for the successful consortium. As one who has consistently voted and argued against the National Lottery, I have to accept that it is now a fait accompli. Therefore, what should be the bid most likely to assuage doubters like myself?

It must be a bid that offers probity, success and generosity. A number of consortia include overseas companies which have been repeatedly named in the House of Commons as having been accused abroad of serious malpractice. Surely such people cannot be allowed, however tangentially, to have any connection whatsoever with the lottery.

Second, the consortium must be led by people with a proven track record. It seems to me pointless to award the contract to a consortium which is motivated by an obvious way to make huge profits, but which does not really have the zest for approaching an entirely new venture in an original way.

Third, the bottom line must be how much of the gross income goes to the ostensible beneficiaries - the good causes. Given the cynicism with which the Chancellor is creaming off his percentage, and that 50 per cent is going back into prizes, only 38 per cent is left potentially for good causes and administration. All of the consortia except one will operate on a basis of 15 per cent to cover administration and profit.

Only Richard Branson's bid will return that profit element to the good causes for which the lottery is supposed to exist. If he can keep down his administrative costs to a level consistent with other bids, then there can be little doubt in the objective observer's mind that his bid meets the criteria of the Director of Oflot, who will decide on the successful bid.

The least satisfactory result would be to hand over the National Lottery to the professional gamblers (in whom I include the merchant banks) whose cynicism equals that of the Chancellor.

Yours sincerely,


MP for Liverpool Walton (Lab)

House of Commons,

London, SW1